Extracellular release of a heterologous phytase from roots of transgenic plants: does manipulation of rhizosphere biochemistry impact microbial community structure?

FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2009 Dec;70(3):433-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6941.2009.00762.x. Epub 2009 Aug 12.


To maintain the sustainability of agriculture, it is imperative that the reliance of crops on inorganic phosphorus (P) fertilizers is reduced. One approach is to improve the ability of crop plants to acquire P from organic sources. Transgenic plants that produce microbial phytases have been suggested as a possible means to achieve this goal. However, neither the impact of heterologous expression of phytase on the ecology of microorganisms in the rhizosphere nor the impact of rhizosphere microorganisms on the efficacy of phytases in the rhizosphere of transgenic plants has been tested. In this paper, we demonstrate that the presence of rhizosphere microorganisms reduced the dependence of plants on extracellular secretion of phytase from roots when grown in a P-deficient soil. Despite this, the expression of phytase in transgenic plants had little or no impact on the microbial community structure as compared with control plant lines, whereas soil treatments, such as the addition of inorganic P, had large effects. The results demonstrate that soil microorganisms are explicitly involved in the availability of P to plants and that the microbial community in the rhizosphere appears to be resistant to the impacts of single-gene changes in plants designed to alter rhizosphere biochemistry and nutrient cycling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 6-Phytase / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • DNA, Fungal / analysis
  • DNA, Plant / analysis
  • Mycorrhizae / genetics
  • Mycorrhizae / growth & development
  • Mycorrhizae / isolation & purification*
  • Phosphorus / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / enzymology*
  • Plant Roots / microbiology
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / enzymology
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / microbiology
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Soil / analysis
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Tobacco / enzymology
  • Tobacco / microbiology


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Fungal
  • DNA, Plant
  • Soil
  • Phosphorus
  • 6-Phytase